Dreamworks Animation’s latest film, the poorly-reviewed Spirit Untamed, didn’t quite live up to its title, putting in the tamest performance ever for a release from the studio. The tv series adaptation opened at 3,211 theaters in fourth place with just $6.2 million (estimated) in its debut weekend, the smallest opening in Dreamworks’ 40-film catalog.
To be fair, expectations were low for Spirit Untamed. This was a feature-length adaptation of a streaming series aimed at young girls and it was never expected to perform like a typical Dreamworks feature with broad family appeal. The film’s reduced budget reflected this direction – its production wasn’t done in-house but rather farmed out to London’s Jellyfish Pictures.
And yet, even with these low expectations, a six-million-dollar opening is nearly unfathomable for the mega-L.A. studio that was once a rival to Disney and Pixar. To find the previous all-time opening low for Dreamworks, you have to go back all the way to 2003 when they released the 2d feature Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, which opened with $6.2M. Audience-wise though, the number of moviegoers who saw Sinbad on its opening weekend is roughly 70% greater than those who saw Spirit Untamed, since the average movie ticket price has greatly increased from 2003 to today ($6.03 vs. $9.16).
Spirit Untamed’s weak performance also doesn’t reflect the rest of the U.S. animation market, which is going strong. Raya and the Last Dragon opened with a relatively slim $8.5M back in March, but that film was available for purchase day-and-date on Disney+, not to mention that it wasn’t even released in Cinemark theaters, the no. 3 chain in the United States. Despite Raya’s digital availability and limited theatrical footprint, the film has remained viable at the box office – this past weekend (its 14th!), the film ranked in fifth place with $1.3M, lifting its domestic cume to $53.5M. Add in the Disney+ numbers – we can only guess at what they are since Disney hasn’t revealed them – and the film likely did fine.
And then there’s the Japanese phenomonen Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train, which took 8th place in its seventh weekend with $576,000 and a $47.7M total, the second-highest-grossing anime release in U.S. history. That figure is even more remarkable considering that it’s rated R.
Finally, there’s Dreamworks’ own The Croods: A New Age, which took 15th place last weekend with $50,000, an impressive feat considering that it’s been in release for over half a year. Released theatrically last November, during one of the pandemic’s waves, the film has now grossed $53.8M domestically.